Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. When your body loses more heat than it can generate, your core temperature drops. If nothing is done to stop this you will experience hypothermia symptoms that get progressively worse.
The First Stages of Hypothermia
- Convulsive shivering
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Irrational behavior
The Later Stages of Hypothermia
- Shivering stops
- Skin turns bluish
- Breathing and pulse slow down
Note that hypothermia is about heat loss that the body cannot replace. This can happen at -20 degrees Fahrenheit or at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are wearing dry clothes that insulate well against the cold and there is no wind, then -20 degrees Fahrenheit is comfortable if you stay active. On the other hand, an older person with little body fat will die of hypothermia in 70 degree water in about 2 to 4 hours.
A construction worker soaked by rain in 50 degree windy weather can also get hypothermia because the wet clothing and wind increases the heat loss from his body. Therefore, the four factors that cause hypothermia are lack of insulation, cold temperatures, wetness, and wind.
Dress warmly in layers. Be careful not to overdress if you will be very active because your clothing will get wet from perspiration. Strip off and replace layers as needed to avoid getting cold or too warm. Wear a wind breaker shell on top of your layers to protect yourself from the wind. Avoid tight clothing such as tight gloves or boots. These will cut off blood flow to the hands or feet and prevent them from staying warm. Because a lot of heat escapes from your head, wearing a warm hat is essential.
Take plenty of breaks in a warm area and drink warm non-alcoholic beverages. The beverages supply heat and prevent dehydration which causes the blood to thicken and flow less freely through the body. Keep an eye on your fellow workers and immediately get out of the cold if your clothes get wet.
If you were injured on the job, our Columbia workers’ compensation attorneys can help you get what you need for a full recovery. For more information and a free consultation, contact us at Harris & Graves, P. A.